Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Forecasting Steel Price Movements

It is becoming increasingly difficult to anticipate which way the steel prices are going to swing. Like weathermen forecasting a sunny day and heavy rains lashing soon after as if with a vengeance, the steel price movements are defying all basic economic rules. When demand goes up, the prices are normally northbound and vice versa. There are already indications of a decline in steel demand in USA - one of the biggest steel consuming nations in the world. The Wall Street Journal has reported (and its reports are generally regarded as reliable) that steel inventory in USA is going up apparently arising out of production cut by the biggest steel consumer segment - auto industry. It is apprehended that there could be similar slowdown in other manufacturing industries as well. Another report by Metal Service Centre Institute corroborates the above trend and states that steel service centres in USA which sell 30% of US steel consumption to the consumers are having the highest stocks of 15.9 million tonnes since January, 2005. So in a situation like this, one would not rule out prices falling. Right?
But if you refer to the statements of some stalwarts of Indian steel industries, the confusion gets further compounded. Dr J.J.Irani of Tata Sons has said "India's steel prices cannot be different. Steel prices are now an international phenomenon.... I do not see them coming down below the present levels in the next 3 to 6 months." Essar Steel maintains similar public stand on the issue. To top it all, there are reports that Mittal Steel SA will be increasing the steel prices by 5% on both flat and long products from November onwards.
We could not make out whether steel prices will go up in the near future. Can you?

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